Friday, January 30, 2009

Secret 4: Surrendering to Creative Cycles

“Burnout is the key enemy of innovation.”

The fourth chapter of Gail McMeekin's The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor made so much sense I could barely contain myself! McMeekin covered a lot of ground in this chapter, but what resonated with me the most was the idea that when we have time off and peace of mind, ideas are often born.

I remember going to school full-time and working full-time. I didn’t have a free minute in the day to even think about being creative. On the weekends I was catching up on sleep and studying. And to top things off, I was also planning a wedding! After the wedding came the new job. Then the twin boys. As things slowed down at home, the pace picked up at work. In the midst of the chaos, I was lucky enough to indulge in professional development…in Miami, Florida! My oh-so-wonderful grandmother offered to take care of my twin boys for a week so that my husband could join me. I worked during the day and we played at night. Miami was just the breath of fresh air that I needed to relax my burnout brain.

McMeekin mentioned Entrepreneur Joline Godfrey and her former partner in this chapter and explained how they had a corporate policy of taking at least one week’s vacation each quarter for peace of mind so that ideas could be birthed. Sweet. I don’t have the luxury of taking a week’s vacation every quarter; however, my husband and I schedule at least one day off from work every month. Every once in awhile, one of us will take the children for a few hours on the weekend for alone time. Both scenarios have been tremendously helpful to our marriage, our children, and has positively contributed to our productivity at work! And for me, the creativity is stimulated when I have a clear head coupled with physical and mental rest. I’ve been able to maintain my prose and poetry blog and even initiate great ideas for projects at work.

As McMeekin stated, “We all need time between cycles to rest and fill ourselves up again with fresh dreams and energy.”

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Smile and Let Go

By Silfredo Rodriguez, a young poet from the city of Camden, NJ, also a member of Hopeworks, a non-profit organization in the city of Camden, NJ.

I walk this road alone because I chose to.
World shattered.
Heart ravaged by devastation.
My mind knows not the depths of peace nor the
tranquility that lies within.
I was told that once upon a time my transgressions
were paid in full,
that my sins were paid for in full,
that these same sins lay at the bottom of a sea of glass.
If this is so…then why?
Why do my memories still haunt me?
Are these things that I myself haven’t forgiven myself for?
Is it my fault that I am not able to forget?
Is it my fault that the things I have buried in the depths of that
sea have somehow made it to the surface?
Is it my fault that I can’t shake my past?
I look at those sins as vast and numerous as the stars in the sky.
Laying on the surface of that sea,
smile and let go, walking away from them knowing that
I am forgiven.

Silfredo shared this poem at a church last Sunday and there wasn't a dry eye in the place. Poetry can be like that sometimes. It's very cathartic...piercing. As a person that works in the education field, I was pleased at the clarity of the piece. It was poignant with great use of imagery and metaphors. I recently conducted a workshop, "Incorporating Poetry into After-school Programs," and was able to "see" the research that I presented to the group, in this poem.

Research shows that the arts help youth build both basic and advanced thinking skills, and instruct youth in diverse modes of thinking and learning. The knowledge and skills that students develop in learning to respond to, perform and create works of arts constitute a fundamental form of literacy students must have if they are to communicate successfully and function in today’s new media and information society.

I hope more of today's youth embrace the arts!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Alone With You

high above the trees
dodging birds
short naps on the clouds
sun rays bronze
my slightly golden body
night falls
it’s almost time
wind carries me
in your direction
nameless destination
our secret domicile
cozy and quiet
like old times

Friday, January 23, 2009

Secret 3: Following Your Fascinations

My passion meets my vocation…

In my eagerness to immerse myself in all that is creative and literary, I began my journey for a new career path. What I learned during this voyage was that I lacked the writing experience. Sure, folks have told me that I was an exceptional writer, but where was my portfolio? I had two choices:

(1) take an entry-level writing position, ultimately resulting in a severe pay cut, but gaining the experience and building my portfolio in the blissful world of writing, or

(2) write freelance in my spare time, slowly gaining experience and building my portfolio.

Option 1 was my preference, my creative impulse. But as Gail McMeekin’s points out in the third chapter of The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor, choice 2 would ultimately negatively impact others…my family, thus a negative, impulsive risk.

“There are two kinds of risks: impulsive risks and calculated risks.”

With childcare expenses that are equivalent to a mortgage payment, it would be virtually impossible for me to take a severe pay cut, especially in this economy. Asking my husband to take a second job was also out of the question. When would he have time to spend with his children and me?

So…I opted for scenario 2. And for the past few years, I have been fortunate enough to obtain several writing gigs that have allowed me to gain diverse writing experiences, while supplementing my income! But for me, it still wasn’t enough. I desperately wanted my passion as my vocation…full-time. So, I decided to take a positive risk, one that McMeekin describes as challenging yourself, following creative hunches, testing your strengths, and initiating a plan of action.

I embarked on a plan of action that would allow me to infuse my creativity and passion for writing into my current position (Program Officer managing the state’s after-school initiative).

First, I thought of ways that I could utilize my writing more in my position (e.g., prepare and disseminate a quarterly newsletter) and shared my ideas with my supervisor. I was also vocal about my personal interests in poetry and the arts (with just about anyone and everyone that would listen). When the opportunity to attend a United States Department of Education sponsored-training on after-school and the arts arose, I jumped on it. As a part of the training, I would be responsible for turn-keying this information to the state’s after-school programs. Of course, I was more than happy to agree to conduct trainings with our after-school programs regarding the importance of arts in education, particularly in after-school programs.

Next thing I knew, my supervisor approached me about conducting a workshop on infusing poetry into after-school programs at a regional conference! I jumped on that, too. That has resulted in me connecting with other like-minded individuals, along with requests to conduct the same workshop for other agencies. My supervisor has been open to projects surrounding poetry and the arts, as related to after-school programs, especially since national research supports the need for the arts in after-school programs (which I was more than happy to supply to her). Research has shown the arts to have value to learning and academic achievement, as well as to self-confidence and reaching disengaged youth.

So long as I am able to maintain my current workload, I can continue to work on arts-related projects, as related to after-school programs. And that works for me, because it hardly seems like extra work.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Beginnings

The sun rises
illuminating the earth
nourishing the vegetation
warming my skin
rose-colored cheeks
my face is flushed
hot with anticipation
it’s a new day
filled with hope
a promise for change
the future is unwritten
I am optimistic.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Writing Endeavors

I am pleased that my article, "Celebrating Twins," was featured in Far Running Fat Man, an online publication.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Secret 2: Honoring Your Inspirations

“If you are out of touch with your inspired self, making a date to connect opens the window.”

So many women have lost touch with their creative voice. Why? In the second chapter of The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor by Gail McMeekin, she points out that too many women are overwhelmed by the awesome responsibilities of home, work, and relationships…consequently, losing touch with their creative voice. I found myself among this group of women not too long ago and as a result, I was restless and stir-crazy. While I find comfort in life’s daily routines, without a creative outlet feelings of stagnation and boredom creep in.

So, what can women do to find their creative voice again? McMeekin advises women to reserve at least 15 minutes of quiet time every day to listen to our thoughts in a creative sanctuary. Select a method for capturing images (e.g., writing, taping, drawing, role-playing) and answer the question: What is your intuition urging you to explore or experience?

This “daily date with my creative voice” has definitely allowed me to soar creatively and express what’s on my mind and in my heart. Typically, on weekends, when my husband and twin boys are fast asleep, and I’m alone with my thoughts, the creative waves begin to rise. And I find myself writing about the same topic until I “feel better.”

Writing has truly helped my mind stay alert, aided in managing the stressors in my life, prevented boredom, and has allowed me to strengthen my connection with loved ones. I can tell my husband, “I love you,” but to express to him via poetry the ways in which he is my soul mate has spoken volumes! I can tell my best friend, “work will get better; continue to vent and express yourself.” But inviting her to my monthly open mic poetry group has allowed her to express herself on paper and verbally. In fact, I dubbed her the “secret poet.” She too, has discovered the power of creative expression.

Secret 1: Acknowledging Your Creative Self

My insatiable passion for writing and poetry has been unleashed…

I hear so many women say, “I’m not the creative type.” In the first chapter of The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor by Gail McMeekin, defies this statement by touching on two major points: “we have a creative self waiting to be awakened and amplified” and “the creative impulses of too many women are asleep—dormant, or unacknowledged.” So, the question is: how do we tap into this creativity?

Now before I delve into the first chapter, I want to start out by saying that the first thing that grabbed my attention was McMeekin’s use of quotes. Almost every page contains a quote by a writer, poet, artist, etc., related to evoking our creative spirits. The quotes were distracting, in a good way…I found myself peeking ahead to read the quotes! A few that truly resonated with me include:

“What you love is a sign from your higher self of what you are to do.” –-Sanaya Roman, Writer

“Making art is a rite of initiation. People change their souls.” –-Julia Cameron, Writer

“Creativity is like a great receptive womb.” –-Lynn V. Andrews, Writer

So, after I surmounted my fascination with the quotes, I was really able to digest McMeekin’s words, which were very uplifting and truly germane to my once dormant and now restored love of creative expression!

McMeekin explained how her battle with chronic fatigue syndrome actually sparked her interest in art, beauty, and creative expression. McMeekin says she was burned out from too much caretaking. But, I wonder if it’s something about tiredness that correlates with the yearning for creativity? I say this because I stirred up my affinity for creative expression shortly after the birth of my twins. I was consistently fatigued and truly experienced sleep deprivation (feeding twins every two hours…yikes!).

My new role as mother was intensely overwhelming. It was my husband who suggested that I “get out and do something.” He recognized my hunger for (creative) brain stimulation, which I responded to with writing and poetry, something I immersed myself in as a child and young adult. I soon realized that my love of poetry and writing were temporarily concealed as a result of a major transition in my life: motherhood. And interestingly enough, like McMeekin’s “Response to Creative Callings,” I was drawn to color. Most people know me as the woman with the “earth-toned wardrobe.” All of a sudden, I started wearing green, purple, and orange tops! (In fact, today I have on a cranberry shirt.)

As the chapter concluded, McMeekin shared how she reconnected with her artistic, intuitive self: painting, writing, decorating, and gardening. She even sought after mentors of advanced creativity and shares their secrets through this book.

I look forward to reading more about how I can “spread my creative wings and ascend to new heights.”

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Book Blogging Group

For the past few months, I have been posting my favorite music, videos, books, quotes, etc. on Fridays as "Friday Favorites..." blog posts. However, for the next 12 weeks, I will be blogging about The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor, by Gail McMeekin.

The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor (Conari Press, 2000) is an inspirational guidebook that offers 12 practices designed to increase one's creative success and help to achieve one's goals, complete with interviews of Sarah Ban Breathnach, Barbara Sher, Shakti Gawain, Chris Madden, Sigrid Olsen, and 40 other highly creative women.

I'll be reading this book and blogging about it as a part of an online blogging book club. An online blogging book club, huh? Yep. It's a community of bloggers that work their way through a book together, sharing their experiences by posting on their own blog and by reading what other participants are sharing. The blog, Next Chapter: 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women, initiated by Jamie Ridler, certified professional co-active coach, is the homebase and will host the blog roll of participants.

I anticipate exploring this inspirational book with like-minded creative spirits! I hope you'll tune in every Friday as I journey through this 12-week exploration of creativity, sharing my experiences and reactions to The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor!

Interested in joining or learning more about this book blogging group? Check out the Next Chapter: 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women blog for the details or contact Jamie Ridler with any questions.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

American Smooth

By Rita Dove From American Smooth

We were dancing - it must have
been a foxtrot or a waltz,
something romantic but
requiring restraint,
rise and fall, precise
execution as we moved
into the next song without
stopping, two chests heaving
above a seven-league
stride - such perfect agony
one learns to smile through,
ecstatic mimicry
being the sine qua non
of American smooth.
And because I was distracted
by the effort of
keeping my frame
(the leftward lean, head turned
just enough to gaze out
past your ear and always
smiling, smiling),
I didn't notice
how still you'd become until
we had done it
(for two measures?
four?) - achieved flight,
that swift and serene
before the earth
remembered who we were
and brought us down.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I Remember You When…

Two decades later,
you appear before me.
Seeing you
simply surreal.
No senseless strangeness
or stilted stumbling,
only secured serenity.
Self-evident stunners.

Secrets secreted
from the once-locked closets.
In the midst of our reminiscing
simultaneous sentiments
sadness, solace
seethed slowly within me:
childhood memories.

Succumb spiritedly
to friendship, old and new
versus a moment in my life
sinfully somber.
Strength supersedes
this previously-fragile child.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Writing Endeavors

I am pleased that my article, "Exercise + Nutrition = Healthy," was featured in Far Running Fat Man, an online publication.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fickle Frenemy

Dangerously dangerous,
dutifully devious,
flagrantly fake,
while simultaneously sweet,
confusingly civil,
cordially considerate.
Painfully pricked once,
earnestly embarrassed twice,
three times meticulously met
with warm welcomes.
A gate guards my heart.
Your key can’t unlock.
Unrestricted no more.
Finally, free.
But, baffled by it all.

This is an example of alliteration: the repetition of usually initial consonant sounds in two or more neighboring words or syllables (e.g., purple plum, clumsy clowns).

Friday, January 9, 2009

Friday Favorites...

"When you write in prose you say what you mean. When you write in rhyme you say what you must."
-- Oliver Wendell Holmes

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Veuve Clicquot Rare Vintage 1988

On this lovely
sun-shiny day
she stands with
perfect posture
poised and acute.
Although, it’s difficult
to concentrate
and remain collected.

The twinge she feels
devours her heart
like a lurching predator
waiting to slay her.

She glances at her watch
again, again, and again…

She continues to wait for sunset
so she can unwind and release
and forget life’s demands!

Yes, nightfall…
the vertex of her day
when she eagerly accepts
her pseudonym: Oenophile.

And suitably so
painstakingly consuming
every glass until
once again…inebriated
inept at walking, yet
effortlessly emaciated.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

And the award goes to...

Yesterday I found out that two of my 55 word short stories were selected to be published in a 55 word stoy chapbook. And today, I am happy to announce that I received an award from Chef E!

Thanks again, Chef E!

Monday, January 5, 2009

55 Word Story Chapbook

I am pleased to learn that two of my 55 word stories, Over Starbucks Coffee and I Do It Once a Week, were selected for the 55 Word Story Chapbook, which will be published by Lilly Press! Twenty-four stories were selected in all, based on the following criteria:

Stories are complete with a beginning, middle, and end and are...

provocative, and

Books will be featured on the River Poets website and can be ordered through paypal.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Friday Favorites...

The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett

A very interesting book about unwed mothers and their secrets and lies in the 1960s...beautifully-written with compelling character study.